NCAA BK

UConn-UCF Preview

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Another loss could cost Connecticut its spot in the national rankings. Another victory against struggling Central Florida should be enough to prevent that.

The No. 22 Huskies look to bounce back from one of their worst performances of the season and send the Knights to an eighth straight defeat Sunday night.

UConn (17-5, 5-4) is among the best 3-point shooting teams in the nation, hitting 40.5 percent, while its average of 75.3 points is third-best in the American Athletic Conference.

The Huskies, though, looked nothing like that in the second half of Thursday's 63-58 road defeat to seventh-ranked Cincinnati. They shot just 32.0 percent overall, went 2 for 11 from behind the arc and squandered an eight-point lead in the second half.

"They did whatever they wanted to do in the second half," coach Kevin Ollie said of the Bearcats, who shot 52.2 percent after the break.

Connecticut may feel confident in avoiding such a performance against UCF (9-11, 1-8), which is tied with Temple for last in the AAC. The Huskies have won four of five all-time meetings with the Knights, including an 84-61 home victory on Jan. 11.

That was also the start of a seven-game losing streak for UCF, which is shooting 38.3 percent from the floor and 26.1 from long range during the skid. The Knights haven't endured a longer slide since dropping eight straight from Jan. 8-Feb. 9, 2011.

They seemed to be on their way to ending the slump Wednesday, but wasted a six-point lead in overtime before falling 79-78 to South Florida. Kasey Wilson committed a foul that led to the decisive free throw with 0.8 seconds left.

"We had chances to win the game a couple of times so I'm not going to get caught up in calls," coach Donnie Jones said. "It's unfortunate it ended the way it did, but that is the way it's going to go sometimes. We've been in tight situations a couple of times and we've got to learn from them."

UCF could use some consistency from Isaiah Sykes, who leads the team with 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. He had 24 points and 12 boards against the Bulls, reaching at least that point total for the third time in six games. However, he's totaled 23 over the other three games in that span. The senior scored a team-high 17 against UConn last month.

The Huskies, though, limited UCF to 31.3 percent shooting from the floor and 5 for 21 from behind the arc in that game while dominating the boards 50-34.

Shabazz Napier is looking for his own bounce-back performance after missing 10 of 12 from 3-point range and finishing with 16 points at Cincinnati. The guard was averaging 25.5 points while sinking 13 of 29 3s over the previous four games.

Napier may also be trying to show some better judgment after missing a tough 3-point attempt that could have put UConn ahead with 30 seconds to go in regulation Thursday.

"We can't shoot 30-footers, and hopefully he keeps learning," Ollie said. "You have to get to the rim and put it on the ref in that situation. You have to make a pass."

Amida Brimah had a season-high 20 points and eight rebounds against UCF, but the freshman center is averaging 5.5 and 4.3 in six games since.

Tagged: Connecticut, UCF

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